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How Much for a Bowl of Shark-Fin Soup, Please?

According to the United Nations, over 100 million sharks were killed last year. The number sounded staggering, so I broke it down into smaller units. That yearly figure translates to almost 274,000 sharks a day; or just over 11,400 sharks every hour; or approximately 190 sharks a minute. Just think about that for a second -- three sharks just died. A second later, three more. It's not surprising that marine scientists estimate that 90 percent of the world's largest fish -- including sharks -- have disappeared since 1950.

In an effort to reverse this trend, the U.S. Government recently proposed broad international measures to curb the slaughter of sharks in the Atlantic Ocean and to encourage the study and preservation of shark populations throughout the world. In particular, the proposals included a ban on the practice known as "shark finning," which is the act of slicing off a shark's dorsal fin and throwing the carcass overboard. Apparently, sharks fins, especially those of blue sharks (more than 90 percent of sharks harvested for their fins come from this species), are a delicacy in Asian countries and command high prices.

Although the Chinese have used shark fins in shark-fin soup since the Han Dynasty over 2200 years ago, the demand for shark fins has shot up in the past decade with the increase in economic prosperity in Asian countries. In Asia, shark-fin soups sells for over $100. In the U.S., dried shark fins can be sold for as much as $200 per pound. Now, here's the kicker -- it has nothing to do about taste (shark fin provides gelatinous bulk in shark-fin soup but it has no taste the soup has to be flavoured with chicken or other stock) and has everything to do with prestige, or at least the perception of having it. Here's another kicker -- laboratory testing has shown that the concentration of mercury is high in shark fins, at least several times higher than levels the FDA considers to be safe for humans.

So let me get this straight: (1) we're killing off the apex creature in the world's oceans, an animal that has been at the top of the food chain for over 200 million years and that is crucial for maintaining the balance of all sea life on the planet; (2) we're doing this so soup can be prepared even though the ingredient in question -- sharks fins -- contributes absolutely nothing to its taste; and (3) by consuming the soup, we're needlessly subjecting ourselves to mercury poisoning and possible brain damage and/or kidney failure in the future. Under the circumstances, how much are you willing to pay for a bowl of shark-fin soup?

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by Gregory D. Granger on Tuesday, November 16, 2004 at 13:42 Comments Closed (1) |
 
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